Tag Archives: water depths

Sediment Loads Into the St Lucie River-2015, Dr Gary Goforth, SLR/IRL

St Lucie River substrate map, DEP, Chris Perry. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)
St Lucie River substrate map, DEP, Chris Perry. (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy that is constantly playing out in our declining St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is the tremendous sediment infill covering its once white sands, seagrasses, and benthic communities.  This began heavily in the 1920s with the connection of the St Lucie Canal (C-44) connecting Lake Okeechobee to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then increased in the 1950s and beyond with the construction of canals C-23, C-24 and C-25.

It must also be noted that the St Lucie River/SIRL underwent great changes when the St Lucie Inlet was opened permanently by local pioneers at the encouragement of Capt Henry Sewall in 1892. (Historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow) Prior to that time, the Southern Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River had been “fresh” —-fresh and brackish waters and their communities of plants and animals “came and went” with nature’s opening and closing of the “Gilbert’s Bar Inlet” over thousands of years….

Since 1892 the St Lucie River has been a permanent brackish water “estuary…” and until the opening of the St Lucie Canal was teeming with fish and wildlife and considered the “most bio-diverse estuary in North America.” (Gilmore 1974)

Anyway, today we have a very special guest, and one of my favorite people in the world, Dr Gary Goforth, to share with us information on 2015 sediment statistics entering the St Lucie River from C-44, our most damaging canal. (DEP 2001:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

Dr Goforth recently sent out an email,  and I ask him if I could share the information; he agreed. He states:

“The pollutant that has been consistently left out of discussions is the sediment load to the estuaries from Lake Okeechobee – over 2 million pounds to the St. Lucie River and Estuary in 2015 alone; almost 4 million pounds to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.” (Dr Gary Goforth)

Isn’t that awful? “We” are filling the river in….smothering it.

The slides Dr Goforth included are the following:

Flows and loads for the period January 1, 2015-May 31, 2015. (Dr Gary Goforth 2015)
Flows and loads for the period January 1, 2015-May 31, 2015. (Dr Gary Goforth 2015)

Please click on image above to read the numbers. Mind boggling!

This second and complicated image below shows “flows” into the estuaries from Lake O into the St Lucie, Caloosahatchee, and to the Everglades Agricultural Area. Generally speaking, the Army Corp of Engineers in discussions with the South Florida Water Management District,  began releasing into the St Lucie River January 16, 2015 until late May/early June. About 3 weeks ago.

Flows between January 1 and May 31, 2015. All flows in acre feet and subject to revision. (Dr Gary Goforth,, 2015)
Flows between January 1 and May 31, 2015. All flows in acre feet and subject to revision. (Dr Gary Goforth,, 2015)

Recently our river waters have looked very beautiful and blue near Sewall’s Point and the Southern Indian River Lagoon and water quality reports have been more favorable.  Nonetheless the river, especially in the South Fork and wide St Lucie River, is absolutely impaired as there is not much flushing of these areas and the sediment infill is tremendous. The seagrasses around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish remain sparse and algae covered when viewed by airplane. Blue waters does not mean the estuary is not suffering!

Months ago I wrote a blog, that is linked below, focusing on south Sewall’s Point’s river bottom infill history,  and depths that  have gone from 19, 15, and 14 feet in 1906, to 4, 8, and 7 in 2014—and looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map shows 10, 8 and 12 feet and a 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet!

Insane….so many changes!

Our government has filled and dredged our precious river…elements of this inputting sediment become MUCK…..

I’ll end with this:

The River Kidz say it best, although my mother didn’t approve of the tone: 🙂

River Kidz "Get the Muck Out" campaign, 2014.
River Kidz “Get the Muck Out” campaign, 2014.

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For interest, I am going to include two more images Dr Goforth included in his email on sediment loading; please click on image to see details.

Thank you Dr Gary Goforth for sharing you expertise on the science of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades. Please check out Dr Goforth’s website here:((http://garygoforth.net))

Lake Releases to the South. (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to the South. (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)
Lake Releases to STAs (Storm Water Treatment Areas) (Dr Gary Goforth, 2015)

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FDEP North Fork Aquatic Preserve: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/northfork/resources/physical.htm)

Former Blog post about depths of St Lucie River, JTL: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/06/04/1906-2014-water-depth-changes-in-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

1906-2014, Water Depth Changes in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)
Hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point’s water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby’s proposed New York Yacht Club at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point. Willoughby came to Sewall’s Point in 1906 in hopes of establishing a Southern New York Yacht Club. (Map and history courtesy of  Sandra Thurlow and Todd Thurlow.)

If Hugh Willoughby had not been searching for a southern location for the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1906, we would not have the remarkable hand drawn map above. The New York Yacht Club’s southern headquarters was never established at the southern tip of Sewall’s Point, but we can see the water depths in the area were substantial, at 20 feet, around the tip of the protected west side of today’s High Point subdivision.

I stumbled upon the information about the New York Yacht Club again, because of trying to track water depths in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon over the past century in my mother’s book, The History of Sewall’s Point.

From my parent’s old timer friends, over the years, I have heard stories about the the water depth and clarity being extensive in many areas of the St Lucie River, from Palm City to Stuart to Sewall’s Point, and how over time the sediment, due to canal run off from C-23, C-24 and C-44, has “filled the bottom of the river” in many areas, even forming “islands” north of the Palm City Bridge. C-44, connected to Lake Okeechobee, was first connected in 1923, and then deepened and widened again in the 1930s, and 50s and “improved since.” C-23 and C-24 were built in the 50s and 60s. Tremendous amounts of sediment and pollution has filled the river over time from these once thought “harmless” canals.

Today this sediment fill is often referred to as “muck.”

Anyway, for a baseline comparison of water depths, I started looking thorough my historian mother’s maps and asking questions to my attorney brother, who is a wiz at any type of map old or new, and although I did not get mapping for all of the the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, I did for my own beloved Sewall’s Point. I imagine it is a microcosm of the rest.

Let’s take a closer look:

IMG_4928

(http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11428cgd.shtml)

Hand drawn map Sewall's Point water depths created for Hugh de Laussat Willoughby ca. 1914. (Map and history courtesy of Todd Thurlow and Sandra Thurlow.)

NOAA, 2014 electronic water depth map juxtaposed to hand drawn map of Sewall’s Point ca. 1906.

Comparing the two maps, one can see that the southern tip of Sewall’s Point in the NOAA map is not documented, I imagine because it is too far away from the Okeechobee Waterway. Disappointing. Nonetheless, if one looks at Sewall’s Point’s mid area, across and north of Hell’s Gate (the narrow part of the river) one can see water depth numbers like 19; 15; and 14 feet. Today those numbers on the NOAA chart read 4; 8; and 7.

Looking on the Stuart side, north of Hell’s Gate, the 1906 map reads 10; 8 and 12 feet. The 2014 NOAA map reads 2; 3; and 4 feet. Mind you, the channel has been dredged many times by the Army Corp, and Florida Inland Navigation District since 1906 and this certainly affects depths overall in the river as well. Nonetheless, for me, it is interesting to compare as even the channel depths in this area are no deeper than 11 feet and often more like 8 or 6  feet.

The famous mid 1900s environmentalist editor of the Stuart News, Mr Ernie Lyons, once said “Life too, is a changing river.” I  wonder if he knew how much we were going to fill it in…

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After I wrote this blog , friend, Kevin Stinnette, sent me the insert for south Sewall’s Point as he has experience as an avid sailer. I am adding for interest although I will not adjust my blog. The same principles hold true. 🙂 Thank you Kevin!

InsertD-Chart 11472b SP